#52Ancestors #23 Jane Coursons, 19th Century Nurse

Jane, my great-great-great-great-grandmother, is standing at the edge of this family branch – before her the information is definitely disappearing into the mist.  I know her first name was Jane (1851 census) and until last month believed her mother’s name could be Grace Thorning.  Not so – fantastic work by my cousin Chris (we met via matching family trees on Ancestry) has shown that Jane’s maiden name is actually Coursons.

St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, Wikipedia

St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, Wikipedia

Born c 1820 in Exeter, she married Plymouth quarryman John Tope in 1837 in the rather swanky-looking St Mary, Redcliffe Bristol, Gloucestershire, England.  So why Bristol?  It appears it’s because they paid well!  Despite the availability of work for quarrymen in Plymouth, many of them appear to have gone to Bristol for better wages.

By 1840 she was in Plymouth, but four years later she had her daughter Mary Ann in Cullompton, Devon, some 55 miles away.  Family there, perhaps?  We shall see…

By 1851 she was living in the village of Oreston in Plymstock, Devon with John and four children: John (1840), Mary Ann Tope (my ancestor, 1844), William (1847) and Elizabeth Ann (b1850).  In 1854 their son George Curson Tope (Jane’s maiden-name clue was in the name!) was born, all in the Plymouth area.

By the age of approx 43 in 1863 she had seen two of her children married off: John to Elizabeth Holbertson and Mary Ann to Samuel Preece, and she was a grandmother.  However just as her own home quietened down her life got harder and more precarious when her husband died in 1866 in Plympton St Mary.

52ancestorsBy 1871 census Jane was working in Plymstock as a general servant and living in Chelson Meadow.  Much more unusually for my family, by 1881 she was listed as a nurse, again living in Plymstock.  Ten years later, aged 71, she was still a nurse.  71!!!!???  [And I’m unimpressed the retirement age will be 67 for me, rather than the age of 60 which was the norm when I was a kid.] In 1873, two years later, Jane died, nearby in Plympton St Mary.

In addition to identifying her parents I’d like to find out more about where Jane Tope (as she was then) was nursing.  It was the post-Crimean Nightingale era but Jane wouldn’t have been well off, and at the age of over 55 and a widow is likely to have taken what work she could to have an income.

And hopefully the mists will clear as the search for long lost Coursons continues…

© Text copyright Lynne Black 4 June 2014

2 thoughts on “#52Ancestors #23 Jane Coursons, 19th Century Nurse

    1. starryblackness Post author

      I hope so! I’ve survived a lot of things which have killed my ancestors. It makes me truly appreciate the era I’ve been born in, advances in science and healthcare and most definitely the NHS!


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